14th Mumbai Film Festival: Technical glitches mar the event

Cineswami takes a look at what went wrong at the prestigious event this year

It is one of the richest festivals in the world, backed by the multi-billion behemoth that is Reliance, but the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI)’s 14th Mumbai Film Festival has run into a raft of technical difficulties leading to several screenings being cancelled and leaving delegates who have parted with their hard earned cash outraged.

Festival director Srinivasan Narayanan explains exactly what the technical problems are: “Nowadays, the films are moved around in digital files – let me say like carrying your files on a CD. If there is a scratch, the CD will not play. The same way, DCPs, the hard disc containing the films in digital format, are transported from one festival to another and from one server to another frequently. This stress of movement and use over several servers of various maintenance standards corrupt the files and the files cannot be transferred to the servers in the screens. Every DCP is protected by a key called KDM which is a sort of password. This key recognises the server in which the films are stored and allows it to be exhibited at the specified times. Sometimes the ‘dialogue’ between the server (a specific number) and KDM is incomplete and the KDM does not permit the server to transfer the files to the projector.”

All that is fine, but the paying public have no interest in the means of delivery. They just want to watch the film advertised at the time announced. In a city like Mumbai where people have to traverse vast distances in adverse traffic conditions just to watch a film, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The plain truth is that Narayanan and his team probably did not know until the festival began that KDM codes are required to unlock the films.

Now the dissembling begins. Narayanan says: “We are not alone in this. This is a global concern affecting almost all the film festivals in various degrees. Yes, it is possible to check the programme if we receive the DCPs in advance. But due to the proliferation of festivals all over the world, the material travels in short window periods.” False. In that case how did the recently concluded BFI London Film Festival screen 228 features digitally without a hitch and a single cancellation? Or Busan International Film Festival for that matter. Those festivals are subject to the same ‘short window’. It’s a question of advance planning that the Mumbai festival clearly has not done.

Even in festival venues screening films off 35mm prints, problems arose. Girish Kasaravalli’s Kurmavatara was badly disrupted because the projectionist did not know the film’s aspect ratio and was showing it through the wrong gate resulting in frantic adjustment while the film was unspooling, with either the heads of the characters being cut off, or the subtitles. And to compound matters, the film lost audio for the crucial last 15 minutes of its running time. As a filmmaker, Kasaravalli felt sad that while the audience was patient enough to sit through this ordeal, he was frustrated there were no technical efforts being made by the festival to solve the problem.

A documentary filmmaker sums up the frustration best: “Disastrous day at #MAMI. Had meeting till late afternoon. Decided to see The Angel’s Share by Ken Loach at Cinemax Versova at 6pm. After standing in line for half an hour, told show cancelled. And all shows at Liberty Theatre today were cancelled. Miss Lovely already cancelled tomorrow morning. Enough of this poorly organised festival for me.”

ALSO READ: 14th Mumbai Film Festival: Sridevi, Anil Kapoor, Manisha Koirala, Jaya Bachchan, Ashutosh Gowariker attend opening